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Gorges to hike and walk near Eléftherna, in Rethymno region

List of Gorges near Eléftherna

  • 2.0 km
  • Margarites Gorge
  • 2 h

Margarites is a renowned village in the Milopotamos province, celebrated for its stunning architecture and traditional pottery. The broader region, encompassing the villages of Margarites, Orthe and Eleftherna, is characterized by a sequence of small, parallel gorges. Tiny watercourses like Margaritianos meander northwards, contributing to the Geropotamos River. These gorges are carved into the white-yellow marly limestone from the Upper Miocene era (8-10 million years ago), a result of the area’s uplift and water erosion.

The gorges’ most striking features are their abundant flora and extraordinary environment. Small groups of horizontally branched cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens var horizontal) blend with low shrubs, wildflowers, and aromatic plants. The local authorities have fashioned small trails that reveal the area’s beauty to visitors.

  • 4.1 km
  • Arkadi Gorge
  • 4.5 km
  • 2 h

The Arkadi Gorge begins just north of the Arkadi Monastery and offers a picturesque journey of approximately two hours. Certain sections along the gorge’s bed are inaccessible due to waterfalls and dense vegetation, making it possible to walk only along the eastern banks. The hiking trail concludes near the Pikris village where it joins the Gypofarago gorge. Here, visitors can appreciate significant Venetian architectural landmarks. The gorge, with its extraordinary natural beauty, allows visitors to marvel at representative species of Cretan flora and fossils.

A slim area of the gorge can also be viewed by driving to the Arkadi Monastery, as the roadway runs through it. This means you can get a sense of its appearance just by visiting the monastery.

  • 11.6 km
  • Platania Gorge
  • 2.5 km
  • 3 h

The Platania Gorge, positioned above the Platania village, links the southeast slopes of the Psiloritis range to the Amari valley, approximately 38km southeast of Rethymno. The river flowing through it collects water from the west of the Migia (1584m) and Spathi (1779m) peaks and channels it to the River Platys, which terminates in Agia Galini. A challenging yet secure trail winds its way up to the starting point at Kokkinoharako, skirting its steep slopes. The trail provides hikers with breathtaking views of the towering cliffs, vertical limestone rocks displaying yellow-red hues of erosion, rock shelters, and numerous caves.

At roughly 800m altitude, a small plateau hosts the cave-like church of Saint Anthony (Agios Antonios), constructed near a spring. The trail from Agios Antonios continues its ascent northwest, meeting a dirt road originating from the Vistagi village. On the opposite side of the gorge, in the east, lies the Panas cave, named after the ancient god Pan, god of the wild, shepherds, and flocks, who, as per local folklore, was born here. The cave houses petroglyphs from the Minoan era, indicating continuous worship at the site. The same dirt road from Vistagi provides access to the nearby church of Saint Mammes (Agios Mamas), the patron saint of shepherds in Christianity.

The Platania Gorge’s interior is stunning, though few get to witness it due to its steep waterfalls, which require technical canyoning equipment to navigate. The tallest waterfall stands at approximately 40m. The first known crossing of the gorge was in 2008 by the canyoning group of Giannis Bromirakis and Christoforos Cheiladakis. The cliffs provide a nesting habitat for various bird species, including vultures, hawks, wild pigeons, and crows.

  • 11.8 km
  • Patsos Gorge
  • 5 km
  • 2.5 h

Located in the stunning province of Amari, the Patsos or Agios Antonios gorge is situated 8 km southwest of Arkadi Monastery. The gorge’s water is collected in the Potami dam. Trekking through the gorge is relatively easy up to a certain point, thanks to a well-marked trail created by the forest service. This trail concludes at the gorge’s narrowest point, where a unique waterfall cascades into a cave. Beyond this point, the gorge narrows and forms several small waterfalls. The descent to the Potami lake demands careful attention, particularly during winter and spring. Another path leads to the avifauna watchtower situated above the river.

The Patsos Gorge is renowned for Agios Antonios’ cavernous temple (Saint Anthony), which was once a sacred cave dedicated to Kraneos Hermes in ancient times. Water seeps from the rocks and drips from the temple roof, accumulating as holy water. It’s fascinating to observe the thousands of prayer papers that devotees have tucked into the rock cavities surrounding the temple. Large plateaus with wooden benches and tables, perfect for picnicking, are located beneath the temple and by the river.

The gorge derives its name from Patsos, a village nestled at the base of Mount Soros at an altitude of 490 meters. It’s approximately 30 km south of Rethymnon. The area boasts a rich variety of flora due to the numerous springs throughout the region that provide a year-round water supply.

  • 12.2 km
  • Prasses Gorge
  • 6 km
  • 4 h

The untamed Prassano gorge, also known as the Gorge of Prasses, is situated 10 km southeast of Rethymnon. It commences south of the Prasses village and provides a captivating three-hour hike through enormous rocks and some fairly challenging passages, adding to the intrigue of the trek. The Prasano Gorge, currently serving as the “overflow” channel for the Potami dam, winds its way through the rocky hills of Gargana, with its stream terminating in the suburb of Platania, east of the city of Rethymnon. The river is engulfed by lush vegetation and towering plane trees, making it an ideal spot for a refreshing excursion.

The Prassano gorge can only be accessed from mid-June to mid-October due to the water flow. It is a crucial biotope of Crete, providing a habitat for buzzards and a small group of Bonelli’s eagles.

The Prasses Village
Set amidst the verdant Cretan landscape on the slopes of Vrysinas, Prasses serves as an entrance to the southern coast. This medieval village showcases the intermingling of diverse cultures that have traversed Crete, evident in the Venetian mansions, Turkish farmsteads, and Orthodox churches. The rich natural and cultural diversity make the village an ideal location for tours and walks. Heading south from Prasses, the road leads to the Potami valley, home to the dam of the same name.

  • 12.6 km
  • Kaminolakkos Gorge

In northern Rethymnon, beneath the village of Myrthios (not to be confused with the Myrthios near Plakias), a petite ravine teeming with plane trees gives way to a wild and untamed gorge at Kaminolakos. The gorge is typically dry, only filling with water after significant rainfall. It is accessible only with canyoneering gear. This gorge remained unexplored until March 22, 2013, when Christopher Cheiladakis, Argyro Koghylaki, and Rudolf Riegler ventured into it for the first time, installing safety rings in the process.

The initial stretch of the gorge is particularly wild, leading to a series of small rappels before reaching the final waterfall, a towering 55 meters high. This waterfall is nestled under an umbrella of large trees, hidden away in a shadowy enclave. The gorge culminates at the renowned stone bridge of Simas, which is situated on the road to Amari. This bridge, the highest in Crete, is considered an architectural marvel of its time.

  • 13.9 km
  • Smiliano Gorge (Kalamafka)
  • 2.5 km
  • 3 h

Located approximately 100km southwest of Heraklion city, north of Ano Meros village, you’ll find the Kalamafka or Gorge Smiliano. The Lygiotis river, originating from the Gerakari valleys and the Samitos Mount slopes, flows through this gorge. The 2.5km long canyon begins near Vrysses village, close to the deserted settlement of Smile, and concludes north of Ano Meros, accessible via an asphalt road.

During winter, the gorge is filled with water, making entrance risky even for experienced canyoners. However, an alternative route via a dirt road descending from Drygies village leads just above the gorge. Here, the canyon’s steep walls form a slope with a trail, allowing relatively easy descent to the gorge’s heart, precisely at the point where the stunning waterfalls are formed continuously. The gorge comprises about 10 remarkable rappels, with the tallest waterfall being 13 meters. The ponds formed beneath each waterfall are equally breathtaking, and it’s worth noting that Gorge Smiliano boasts the largest and deepest ponds compared to any other gorge in Crete.

A journey through the canyon (as described in June of a particularly rainy year)
Starting near Smile, we first cross a small arched bridge. After just 50m, we enter the gorge’s main section, greeted by a large pond. The canyon then narrows to about 2m and forms a deep pond, 2-3m deep, requiring swimming. The first small rappel we encounter ends in a large, deep pond (perfect for jumping), where the depth exceeds 3m.

Following this, a rock lodged between the canyon walls forms a natural arch. After swimming for several meters (over 25) without touching the ground, we continue our journey unimpeded. We soon encounter the first high waterfall, and the gorge narrows further (1-1.5m). To continue through this narrow section of the canyon, ropes are required. Alternatively, we can walk alongside the canyon until we reach the 15m high rappel that ends in a very deep pond, perfect for a big jump.

The gorge extends eastward, and the deep ponds gradually become small, shallow ponds. Towards the end of the gorge, the water almost disappears, making it impossible to anticipate the aquatic paradise that lies just a few meters ahead.

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